French President Emmanuel Macron will pay his first visit to Poland on Monday in a bid to mend ties strained over Warsaw’s controversial judicial reforms and its position on EU climate goals.
Controversial judicial reforms have put Poland’s right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) government on a collision course with Brussels over rule of law violations.
The visit is Macron’s first abroad trip this year that is aimed at “clarifying the French position on many European issues, opening up new areas of cooperation with a major EU partner and stressing the need to protect European democratic values”, according to the president’s office.
Up to now, relations have been cool at best, Macron’s office added.
At the same time, an agreement by EU leaders in December to try to make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050 was immediately undermined by Poland’s refusal to implement the aim.
“A reset is necessary because it couldn’t be worse,” said Eryk Mistewicz, head of the Warsaw-based Institute for New Media think-tank, pointing to “a spiral of misunderstanding and lack of mutual respect” between Paris and Warsaw.
In 2018, President Macron himself accused Poland’s PiS government and Hungary’s populist Premier Viktor Orban of “lying to their people” about the European Union’s powers to interfere in domestic affairs.
In the past, it chose US-made F-16 fighter jets over French Mirage warplanes and now, just days ahead of Macron’s arrival, Warsaw sealed a 4.6-billion dollar deal with the US for new F-35 fighters.
It also triggered outrage in Paris in 2016 when it pulled out of a 3.14-billion euro contract for 50 Caracal helicopters at the last minute.
France ranks sixth on Poland’s list of trade partners, having exchanged nearly 21 billion euros worth of goods in 2018.
French companies take the fourth spot on Poland’s foreign investor ranking, having poured more 18 billion euros into the country via some 1,100 companies, according to Polish data.
Macron has been the most vocal of the “progressives”, but he is far from the only one indulging this binary vision of Europe.
Macron “is likely to try to explore common interests in the Multiannual Financial Framework (future EU budget) negotiations and seek ways to bring Poland into the European Green Deal,” according to Pawel Zerka, a policy fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations.
The Green Deal is the EU’s new one-trillion-euro (USD 1.1-trillion) plan to finance its goal of making the bloc carbon neutral by 2050.
Macron is set to hold talks with Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as well as the speakers of both houses of parliament in Warsaw on Monday before meeting with students in the southern city of Krakow on Tuesday.
(With inputs from AFP)